ABSTRACT

For Britain, the most controversial and widely debated environmental issue of the postwar years - and perhaps of the twentieth century - has been the threat posed to the countryside by modern farming. The controversy has particularly gathered momentum since the debate over the Wildlife and Countryside Bill, which became an Act of Parliament in 1981. The bill focused unprecedented attention on an incipient disagreement between the agricultural and environmental lobbies. It emphasized the influence enjoyed by the agricultural lobby in the hallways of the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (MAFF), and revealed the relative lack of influence of conservation groups (a subsection of the environmental lobby concerned mainly with wildlife and countryside issues). However, the debate over the bill may have been the swan-song of the farming lobby. In the years that followed, environmentalists won new influence and public sympathy at the expense of the farming lobby. British farmers still enjoy many privileges, and many exclusions from planning laws, but the farming lobby today is neither as powerful nor as credible as it was in 1980.